Shunji Japanese Cuisine Summer Test Meal: A Pictorial Essay

So many variables must be considered, so many problems which may arise…

How does an omakase meal translate into an outdoor setting which preserves and maximizes safety for all involved, while also striving to satisfy customers?

There is one way to find out: Hold a summer test dinner.

The parking lot at Shunji Japanese Cuisine was transformed into an al fresco venue. With the itamae holding down the center table, three two-top tables fanned out at appropriate distances, arranged in a semi-circular formation.

Shunji-san, a veritable virus-smiting samurai, armed with hand sanitizer, donning a mask and a face shield, then proceeded to serve myself and three other lucky (masked and distanced) souls our first mini-omakase since the beginning of the pandemic.

Again, the goal of this meal was to ascertain whether the setup felt safe and comfortable for all parties. But I have to admit, it felt really good to be served sushi in person again by a master, even if it was at a distance of 6-12 feet apart.

There were a few inevitable issues which came up during the course of the meal. For example, the temperature of the shari was far more sensitive to change when exposed to ambient outdoor temperatures than I had initially expected (Shunji-san noted this too, and will adjust accordingly). The weather in the parking lot also got downright chilly (for L.A., at least) as the sun set, so I was glad I brought a sweater (drinking sake would help, too!).

But at the end of the test meal, everyone (customers, servers, and Shunji-san himself) came away from this dinner feeling optimistic that an outdoor omakase CAN be done, and done safely. There will be some minor re-toolings of technique and procedure, but it is a great start.

By the way, the food Shunji served was smashingly good…

Summer baby corn tempura with Australian black truffle and sweet corn chawanmushi…

Shima aji…

Honmaguro akami zuke…

Chu-toro…

Kuruma ebi…

Nodoguro…

Kanpachi…

Uni gohan, topped with caviar…

White peach…

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Very nice. I suppose a masked server brings over each course?

Great question. Everyone was masked: Customers, servers, chef…

The server (Yuko-san, in this case) brought the otsumame courses to the front (leading) edge of table as each diner held plenty of distance by sitting at the far end of the table. Likewise, Shunji-san walked every piece of nigiri over to the front edge of each customer table. As this was a test meal, we were all painfully keen on noting maintained distances during this dinner. Poor Shunji probably clocked in a few extra miles on his pedometer that night from all that walking.

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Is the price for standard and premium the same as before?

jealous

Very cool successful trial run! I better help Yuko san find some new good warm sake candidates in the meantime!

Another plus: the restroom is now on the same level as the dining area!

win

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The cost of the meal hasn’t been set in stone yet. But it certainly won’t be less in price than before the pandemic. There will probably be only one seating per night (decontamination between sequential seatings will likely be too difficult). The Toyosu Market was well-represented in my test meal. The quality of the neta and its varieties are as great as ever. I might post some more photos of the other dishes soon.

If this Shunji outdoor dining venture works out to be a safe option (as it’s looking to be the case), then it’ll be one of the only in-person high end omakase options I’m aware of that’s currently available.

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Yasu does it too. YMMV on whether it’s “high end” though!

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I hope Chef Brandon Go is reading this thread! Hint, hint…

Environmental nuisances were surprisingly absent during our test meal. The flying insects situation was not an issue. Noise-wise, there was one ambulance which screamed by on Pico as we were eating, along with the occasional moving muffler violation. But overall, these potential issues did not actually detract from our enjoyment of the parking lot omakase.

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OMG!
You have to be kidding.

OMG!
You have to be kidding.

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Looks freaking amazing. When I saw it on IG I was so hopeful. Glad to hear it worked out well and hope this opens up as an addition to takeout! Though with only one seating a night for such a rare experience these days perhaps it will become another F5-fest haha.

Do I detect a little haterism?

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Looks amazing but where’s the rest of the meal? Hopefully there was more food served.

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Yes indeed. The total dinner comprised 5 otsumame courses, 15 nigiri and 1 dessert (AKA a typical full premum omakase). As this was a test meal to determine safety first and foremost, I just posted a few of the representative dishes. A few FTCers have asked for each dish to be posted, so I shall endeavor to do so.

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Hm, why would you think I hate Shunji? :confused:

If you didn’t see a previous thread, there’s nothing but love for Shunji-san and his wonderful Omakase? I’ve been recommending Shunji for years on this board.

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I know you love going to Shunji @Chowseeker1999. But don’t you want to encourage others to go?

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Next up - drive up omakase. Eat in your own climate controlled, pest free, noise proof containment unit.

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That made me LOL. We can always count on you to bring humor! Thank you.

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Until the patiomakase becomes a regular occurrence at Shunji, customers of their take-out orders can use the distanced outside tables to start enjoying their take-out food after pickup.

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